Texas Bar Protects the Connected, Lawyer Says

     AUSTIN (CN) – A New York-based attorney accused the State Bar of Texas of protecting “politically-connected attorneys” after it dismissed his disciplinary grievance against state Attorney General Ken Paxton.
     Ty Clevenger said he “really shouldn’t be surprised” the bar’s Office of Chief Disciplinary Counsel dismissed his February grievance regarding a pending felony securities fraud case against Paxton in Collin County Court.
     Paxton was indicted in 2015 on charges of fraudulently selling more than $100,000 in Servergy Inc. stock to two investors in July 2011 without disclosing he would be paid commissions on it.
     He also failed to disclose that he had been given 100,000 shares in the company but had not invested in the company himself, according to the indictment.
     Paxton faces up to life in state prison if convicted.
     The charges were the result of a Texas Rangers investigation that began after the Texas State Securities Board fined Paxton $1,000 in 2014. In that case, Paxton admitted he had solicited clients for a friend’s investment firm, Mowery Capital Management, while he was a state senator, without being registered as an investment adviser. Paxton paid the fine and was reprimanded.
     According to the bar’s March 9 dismissal letter, Clevenger’s grievance “is not ripe for compulsory discipline” unless Paxton is convicted and sentenced.
     “We have concluded that some of the conduct you described is not a violation of the disciplinary rules,” Assistance Disciplinary Counsel R. Uribe wrote. “Concerning the remaining conduct you allege, it is the subject of a pending criminal case against the respondent.”
     Clevenger disagrees, arguing there is “nothing in the disciplinary rules preventing OCDC from prosecuting attorney misconduct charges concurrently with criminal charges.”
     He cites an earlier disciplinary grievance he filed against former Robertson County District Attorney John Paschall where the bar prosecuted concurrently with criminal charges.
     “If you file a grievance against a politician lawyer before he gets indicted, the state bar will dismiss the grievance no matter how damning the evidence on the grounds that you failed to state a violation,” Clevenger said. “But if you file the grievance after he gets indicted, then the state bar will dismiss your grievance because a criminal case is pending. Is it any wonder that my profession has such a miserable reputation?”
     The bar “needs to be gutted and reorganized from top to bottom,” Clevenger contends.
     A second disciplinary grievance remains pending against Paxton regarding a controversial, nonbinding opinion he issued after the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark ruling last year in Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized same-sex marriages. Paxton told state judges and county clerks they can invoke their religious rights in refusing to perform same-sex marriages, but warned that they might be sued.
     Paxton’s opinion was cited immediately by Hood County Clerk Katie Lang, who invoked her religious objection to gay marriage within days of the Obergefell ruling.
     A same-sex couple sued her in Fort Worth Federal Court after she repeatedly refused to issue them a marriage license and “humiliated” them.
     After Lang relented, Hood County officials settled the lawsuit by paying the couple’s $44,000 legal bill.
     Paxton’s opinion was cited a second time in February by Republican Dallas County Justice of the Peace Bill Metzger, who said his “sincerely held religious beliefs” prevent him from being “forced to conduct anything but a traditional wedding.”
     Dallas County Democratic Party officials immediately demanded Metzger resign, accusing him of violating federal law and his oath of office.

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